Adult elephants interact with burnt youngsters in Pilanesberg boma
The eight young elephants that are the remaining survivors of dramatic veld fires in the Pilanesberg National Park have settled down well in a boma in the park after having been returned there from recuperation bomas in Hammanskraal. The boma is in the middle of the park, and some of the park's bull elephants have already come right up to the boma and communicated with the little ones with outstretched trunks.
Breeding herds have passed within 50-100 metres of the boma, and wildlife specialist JJ van Altena says that they have been vocalising to the injured animals, who huddle together and look in the direction of the adults with raised trunks. "We are still watching one or two animals that appear slightly weaker than the others."
The next stage in the elephant's eventual release into the wild will be to capture one of the lone female elephants wandering the park since the fires and introduce her to the boma, in the hopes that she will integrate with the youngsters and they can be released together. Van Altena says, "It is fantastic to see them back where it all started."
He adds that they have learnt a lot, which will help them tackle an incident like this better in future and aid in assessing an animal's injuries at the outset. "We have lost animals that we thought were doing alright.... at the end of the day every one thatmakes it is a success... I'm glad that we got this many through." Van Altena says, "Elephants have an amazing affinity for being helped" and that the effort of the elephants themselves plays a large part in their individual recovery.